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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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A red wave of support for troops
A financial consultant is leading a campaign to show service people they're appreciated.
By BETH N. GRAY, Times Correspondent
Published February 8, 2008
Vietnam veteran Doc Hofmeister, center, is leading a national effort to get people to wear red shirts to work on Fridays to honor our troops. Posing with Hofmeister are some of the people he shares an office with at Coastal Financial and Kierzynski & Associates in Weeki Wachee. From left to right are Michelle Kastner, Susan Ferriero, Gloria Strey, Jennifer Koalsa, Dena Santo and Sally Hardy.
[Lance Aram Rothstein | Times]
SPRING HILL - Doc Hofmeister, a former Marine who served in Vietnam, knows about morale. "If morale is low, you make mistakes. And when you make mistakes, people die," he declares from experience.
The 58-year-old financial consultant, who still harbors resentment from his own experiences during and after the Vietnam War, is determined that the troops serving overseas today will get more support on the home front than he and his buddies received so many years ago.
To that end, he has launched a national effort to boost morale here and abroad. Called Red Shirt Fridays, it encourages people to wear red shirts on Fridays to show support for service people.The drive is picking up momentum in Florida and beyond.
"When the troops see the news and see people dressed in red, they know they have support," he said.
Overseas troops are aware of the effort through the Web site, www.redshirtfridays.org, which Hofmeister and his partners at Coastal Financial, Mike Kierzynski and Frank Ricciuti, began in July.
"We do not care whether or not one supports or does not support the war," reads a statement on the Web site. "We care only about making our support for our servicemen and women known to our fellow Americans and the world.
"We are a silent majority that does not wish to remain silent anymore. We need to let our servicemen and women know we support their sacrifice and we will not forget them and we will do this by wearing red every Friday."
The original idea of Red Shirt Friday was not his, Hofmeister said. Someone on the Internet proposed the idea two years ago, but it languished.
"I just took a good idea and went further with it," he said. That includes establishing the Web site and encouraging Coastal Financial employees to wear red on Fridays. They all do, and they are eager to tell their clients why.
It's catching on
Locally, the Hernando County Sheriff's Office is participating. So are U.S. Postal Service employees around the county. Accurate Chiropractic Clinic employees in Spring Hill have taken to the red shirt effort.
Honey Baked Ham on U.S. 19 is giving a 10 percent discount on purchases to customers wearing red shirts on Fridays. Patrick's Restaurant's 20 employees in Crystal Spring are participating. So is a Harley-Davidson outlet in Crystal River. Allied Plastics Co. Inc. of Jacksonville is red-shirted.
"It's really starting to spread out," Hofmeister said.
American Equity Insurance in Iowa bought 300 short-sleeved red shirts for its employees. Then with winter, the firm asked for another order with long sleeves.
A Harley-Davidson outlet in Louisiana joined in. A radio station in Ohio is promoting the program. Employees at the Athens Regional Medical Center in Athens, Ga., are wearing red.
"Companies from three to 300 employees are taking part," Hofmeister said. "Can you imagine if we'd get 25 to 50 percent to participate in Red Shirt? For the United States to get together that much on anything?
"Since World War II, this is the first time people have drawn together in support," the organizer maintained.
"Any company can do this to show people that they care. It wouldn't cost them anything. It's a no-brainer. I'm not talking about taking a stand on the war, just support our troops.
"Everybody has a red shirt, any kind."
But for those who want to spread the word in red, Joni Industries, a textile and screen printer firm in the Hernando County Airport Industrial Park, offers official versions emblazoned with "Red Shirt Friday" and "Support Our Troops." Any profits will go to support the troops, Hofmeister said.
If the Red Shirt endeavor brings in more business to any firm that participates, says Hofmeister, "That's a double reason to do it, but the main reason is supporting the troops. It is to help others."